Ever wondered what will make your wedding video truly unforgettable? Well, after capturing heaps of love-filled moments and scrutinizing wedding films like a film critic on a mission, I'm ready to spill the beans. Introducing our time-tested 12-beat wedding film story structure: "The Intro," "The Getting Ready," "The Ceremony Setting," "The Bride's Entrance," "The Vows," "The Kiss," "The Reception Entrance," "The Toasts," "The First Dance," and "The Dance Party." This is what to include in your wedding video. It's the holy grail of wedding video styles – a screenplay you'll want to bookmark in your wedding binder. Ready to dive into the magic? Let's roll!
First things first, snag a videographer who films with a smile, shoots a ton, and is obsessed with sound – the unsung hero of wedding videos.
1. The First Shot - An abstract
In the brief embrace of three enchanting seconds, the inaugural shot takes the spotlight—a clandestine portal into the very soul of the wedding's theme. Whether it's a vintage car striking a pose or a drone capturing a cliff-side panorama, each frame whispers the timeless tale of "once upon a time." The sun's gentle caress through a flowery arch and the vivid intensity of the bride's dress during the nikah create a visual feast. From a Greek dance troupe twirling in cultural splendor to an anonymous hand igniting a centerpiece lantern, each moment is a charming glimpse into the unfolding love story -A tale unfolds.
2. The Intro - Veering away from the expected chronology.
At every wedding, someone inevitably drops a gem. A wise grandma, wrapped in the warmth of the occasion, muses during a heartfelt toast, "We are all connected through joy, past, present, and future," leaving behind a poetic denouement of "just because two people fell in love."
Another memorable snippet unfolds as Paul's brother, the best man, takes the stage, humorously quipping, "Thank God Paul married her before she found a good husband," a testament to Joanna's wonderful and caring nature.
But the brilliance isn't confined to the guests alone. Enter Nick, delivering a speech that unveils the serendipity of how he met Gabby in Las Vegas. "If you had told me a few years ago that I'd meet my wife in Las Vegas, I probably would've wondered where my life went so wrong. However, in the words of Rihanna, we found love in a hopeless place."
The intro weaves these philosophical and humorous gems into a narrative, accompanied by the perfect melody, sound effects, and visuals that showcase the couple in their finest light. Picture a bride and groom, locked in a gaze during a portrait session in a serene park, or the groom, captivated, watching his bride twirl her dress in the sunset from a distance.
3. The Getting ready - A sense of anticipation.
Sunrise. Music starts.
The getting ready segment transforms into our artistic palette, where each shot is poised, the rhythm deliberate, and the background music resonates with poignant lyrics about love—our love.
The narrative, extracted from late-night parent toasts, unfolds with a mother tenderly recounting the day her daughter, the radiant bride, entered the world, and a father sharing the poignant tale of his first encounter with the groom—the initial handshake.
It's not merely about capturing iconic shots; it's about the discerning eye that spots perfect sun rays filtering through the intricate patterns of a wedding dress, hung on the porch by the bride's mother—an unspoken announcement to the neighborhood that her daughter is stepping into a new chapter. Witness the groom's men comically attempting, and often failing, to affix the boutonniere to the groom's pocket, each adeptly avoiding the sharp pin until a seemingly omnipresent Aunt swoops in to save the day.
Envision the spirited photographer, playfully directing the bridesmaids by their names, coaxing genuine smiles from the flower girls. Caught in the act of being filmed, a bride mid-makeup breaks into a charming smile while the makeup artist, clad in black, inadvertently disrupts the moment by snapping a quick before-and-after reel on her phone for Instagram.
In the midst of the hustle, observe a shy 8-year-old niece of the groom sitting alone in a corner, quietly absorbing the spectacle, diligently recording memories for the future. It's these nuanced scenes that, when intricately woven together to the rhythm of the music, propel anticipation to its zenith, seamlessly guiding us toward the grand ceremony itself.
4. The Ceremony setting - The design
The fragrance of flowers envelops the atmosphere. As the getting-ready music fades, the officiant steps into the spotlight, crafting the opening lines: "We have all gathered here to celebrate the love..." In the silent expanse of ceremony seats, the adorned arch, guests' name tags and confetti bags await their moment.
The Ceremony Setting emerges as a pivotal story beat. It's a brief yet powerful transition, propelling us to the heart of the narrative—the ceremony itself.
Guests gracefully take their seats, the groom strides purposefully towards the aisle, shares a tender hug with his mother, and takes his place beside the arch.
The bridal party follows suit, with the flower girls adding a touch of innocence to the procession. The ambient murmur of the guests creates a rhythmic undercurrent, building a fast-paced sequence that harnesses the anticipation cultivated during the getting-ready phase.
Suddenly, a hush descends upon the venue as the ultimate anticipation takes hold. Every guest rises and turns, forming an aisle—a living corridor awaiting the bride's entrance. The air is pregnant with expectation, the quiet before the crescendo. The ceremony, the focal point of the entire celebration, is poised to unfold.
5. The Bride's Entrance - A sacred hush.
Whispered "wows" of the groom and the subtle gasps of the guests.
As the bride embarks on her momentous walk down the aisle, time appears to stretch.Every detail is crucial—the shy glances, brisk steps, and the dress that craves a mid-aisle adjustment.
This scene is a cinematic canvas, and if any cut must be made, it's only to frame the groom's face in a close-up. Does he shed tears? Do his hands tremble? The heartbeat might be concealed, but the rhythm of his breath reveals the untold story. The rule of thumb here: we let the moment unfold until the bride is handed over to the groom. Only then does the officiant resume her narration, asking the pivotal question: "Do you take each other as spouses?" Their close-ups capture the affirmation—a resounding "Yes," followed by a poignant silence.
The subsequent transition could be anything. The music fades, natural sounds take center stage, and for two to three seconds, a fresh breath is drawn. A brief glimpse of a pitbull captures its breath as it gazes at "mom and dad," the newlyweds—a subtle yet impactful touch. In a lakeside wedding, three waves hitting the shore orchestrate a cinematic pause—a prelude signaling that a new chapter is about to unfold.
6. The vows - A film within a film.
A new musical chapter unfolds as, from a distance, partners engage in a raw exchange of vows—a moment both intimate and awkward. The selection of the right music for this segment is paramount; it transcends cultures and styles.
In one instance, a typical American folk song seamlessly intertwined with a Chinese wedding, while a couple seeking a '90s home video vibe found resonance in the same folk song, proving its remarkable versatility.
The camera lingers on each partner's face, capturing the raw emotions. Depending on the music, glimpses of the speechless partner may be warranted. Given the potential length of this segment, well-placed cutaways are essential.
As tears flow during the vows, a seamless cut takes us to the emotional audience. Display pictures of departed family members and effortlessly transition to the most beautiful moments of the wedding—perhaps the first look or snapshots from the couple's portrait session. Hands holding, locking eyes, or the sun creating a lens flare through the bouquet as the bride inhales its scent.
The vows beat is a short film within our wedding video, determining its length. Unexpected moments, like a bride borrowing a tissue or reading the wrong thing, add depth and emotion. The occasional laughter becomes an opportunity to infuse a bit of rom-com drama, providing conflict and resolution within the vows segment.
7. The kiss - That's why we are here.
In a not-so-intimate scene, the officiant utters the timeless words, "By the powers invested in me, I declare you husband and wife." Quick the exchange of rings on each other's fingers, "You may kiss."
The music swells, and in a cinematic moment, the kiss unfolds.
The kiss shot is an art in simplicity—it doesn't require a multitude of takes. One powerful shot encapsulates the essence. It's the reason everyone is here—the culmination of thousands of kisses that pales in comparison to "the kiss" at this very moment. Amidst potential obstacles like photographers, smartphone-wielding relatives, and the inevitable applause, these 10 seconds of a public kiss are an art in itself.
As the applause echoes, the couple, hand in hand, walks back from the aisle. This sequence demands more than a steady shot; it requires a dynamic tracking back. They may even dip and share another kiss in the middle of the aisle. Flashes pop, confetti dances through the air, and the newlyweds can't help but smile widely. With the major part of the wedding now behind them, they revel in the success of a perfectly executed ceremony.
"But, hold on—things are about to an even more uplifting turn. The sun begins to set, and as the bride and groom are pictured together in the warm glow, the narrative shifts to the celebration mode"
Envisioning a unique wedding video ?
8. The Reception Entrance - A party is coming.
As the night unfolds, two key narrators take the lead in shaping the narrative: the DJ and the MC. The reception decor dazzles—centerpieces, guests' seats, quick shots from the cocktail hour, champagne glasses clink. A close-up of the delectable canapés sets the stage for the grand entrance announcements.
The MC's voice becomes the guiding narrative as the bridal party is introduced, each member making their way to the reception. Watch closely for original choreography that demands a bit more screen time. At the iconic Montebelo castle in Quebec, Cynthia and Gabe entered with a well-rehearsed ballet performance to "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast, creating an enchanting moment.
Entrances may feature a cultural troupe, rock and roll vibes, or even a rushed introverted bride and groom who prefer a more subdued entrance.
The choice of an epic instrumental score proves invaluable at this juncture. It allows for fair use of original entrance music, enabling seamless transitions and maintaining a balance between the party atmosphere and the overarching wedding story. Everyone feels immersed in the celebration yet remains anchored to the narrative thread.
Arab wedding receptions benefit from this sound design technique, where dramatic entrances and dances dominate. It ensures a dynamic audio experience, enhancing the viewer's connection to the celebration and the unfolding story of the wedding.
9. The toasts - The vox pops.
Not every wedding videographer takes the time to spotlight the toasts, but for us, it's become a treasured memory that we hold close to our hearts. With an attentive ear, a skillfully selected five-second snippets from each toast—tiny moments that encapsulate the essence of each speaker's heartfelt sentiment.
The visual narrative unfolds at the couple's table, capturing each speaker as they take the spotlight, their words resonating with laughter and warmth. The camera then pans to the couple, revealing their genuine reactions to these heartfelt toasts. This technique ensures an authentic portrayal of the emotions shared during this intimate part of the celebration.
The toasts may cascade in an abrupt, raw sequence—each one punctuated by infectious laughter. Maintaining the chronological order they were given enhances the authenticity, as there's a deliberate reason behind the chosen sequence. The magic lies in those fleeting moments just before the room erupts in laughter—capturing these snippets ensures an engaging and emotionally resonant late-night toast experience.
To conclude this story beat, the perfect moment is the raising of glasses. It's a universal gesture, a collective toast that signifies not just the culmination of speeches but a shared celebration of love, joy, and precious moments. This narrative arc, from heartfelt words to shared laughter to a unified toast, leaves an indelible mark on the hearts of the couple and their cherished guests.
10. The First Dance - A universal tradition.
The first dance, a traditional highlight of wedding receptions, is a moment the bride and groom wouldn't want rushed. The challenge lies in seamlessly blending the original, often copyrighted music of the first dance with the main wedding film score.
Here, the fair use technique comes into play: lowering the volume of the main score allows us to hear the beginning of the original first dance song, only to bring back the main score as we transition into slow-motion shots of the couple. This method ensures a fluid and harmonious dance sequence.
The first dance typically paves the way for dances with parents, and occasionally, a call for all couples in the room to join in. Special effects, such as fog creating clouds beneath the dancers' feet or sparklers adding a luminous glow, often accompany these dances. A golden rule here is to showcase the special effects in wide shots for a slightly longer duration than close-ups, allowing the magic to unfold.
While it's not necessary to capture the entire dance, certain shots are unmissable—the beginning of the dance sets the tone, and the final dip and kiss epitomize the sentiment of "You look so perfect tonight," perhaps best expressed in Ed Sheeran's "Perfect." These carefully curated moments immortalize the beauty and romance of the first dance in the wedding film.
11. The Dance Party - A Fast pace.
As the celebration moves into full swing, the dance floor takes center stage with two distinct approaches. One immerses in the crowd with a handheld camera feel, dancing with everybody and capturing the raw energy and joy of the party.
It's not about cinematic aesthetics; it's about people reveling in the moment, and this has become an iconic and aesthetic choice in itself. On the other hand, another technique showcases the dance scenes from a distance, capturing the collective vibe of the party.
Dance scenes are inherently lively, especially as guests embrace the rhythm with the confidence that comes after a few glasses. The challenge, however, lies in the lighting. Venues often dim the lights for the dance party, and the DJ introduces dynamic lighting effects—colors, lasers—that add a vibrant visual element. Faces may not be the focal point, but the infectious dance moves take center stage.
In the presence of a live band, the music becomes a dynamic part of the narrative. When there isn't, the main score takes the lead. However, the real challenge lies in the mixing—crafting a seamless transition to conclude the party in an iconic way. A go-to move is a group photo session, reminiscent of the ceremony, creating an unexpected but effective transition to the next and final beat—the outro.
12. The Outro - The recap
The conclusion of a wedding film is an art, centered around the outro beat as the perfect canvas. It entails a transition to slower-paced music, revisiting unseen moments such as family portraits, paperwork signing, tender kisses, and scenic drone shots. The key is to create a rhythmic dance between these snippets and the first dance, capturing glances, emotions, and shared gazes.
Intertwining these visuals with poignant narrations—parents expressing wishes, the best man or maid of honor offering gratitude, or symbolic "welcome to our family" lines—adds depth to the film's conclusion.
A well-designed last shot, perhaps revisiting the intro's essence, like the couple sharing a heartwarming kiss in the same spot, encapsulates the beauty of the wedding video.
The outro beat, nearly as long as the intro, lasts a maximum of one minute, encapsulating the love witnessed throughout the celebration. As the final chords linger, the film gently fades out, leaving the audience with a lasting impression of the beautiful love story they've just experienced.
-Fade Out. Credits roll. Or not.
Congratulations on taking the reins of your wedding video journey! Your love story is as unique as you are, and while each wedding is a one-of-a-kind celebration, these 12 beats have been the heartstrings of countless magical films we've had the privilege to create and witness. Feel free to share these beats with your wedding planner and team, allowing them to orchestrate a symphony that mirrors your love.
Remember, your wedding video isn't just a recording; it's a crafted masterpiece that will etch smiles on your faces and warmth in your hearts as you relive those cherished moments.
Share your thoughts, questions, or what you'd love to see in your own wedding video in the comments below.